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Turmoil is brewing in Europa. The legendary general Camjiata has escaped from prison and is now building up an army-in-exile. Cat and her cousin Bee are still pawns in the plans of the rich and powerful, but Cat's otherworldly sire also has plans for her. For her part, Cat just wants to escape these machinations and forge her own path. Events bring her to the Antilles, the home of the Taino Kingdom and the Europan colony of Expedition. There she meets the powerful fire mages and becomes embroiled in yet more intrigue and magic, as her father prepares to use her to draw a powerful soul into his grasp.

Cold Fire is the middle volume of Kate Elliott's Spiritwalker Trilogy, which picks up shortly after the events of Cold Magic. Like its forebear, this is a well-characterised novel which eschews the normal conventions both of the epic fantasy and steampunk genres (whilst borrowing from both). There are elements in this book of the Victorian comedy-of-manners (and occasional, intriguing echoes of the likes of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) and Celtic mythology, as well as the northern European legend of the Wild Hunt.

Elliott's masterstroke here is moving the story to the Caribbean where a whole swathe of other influences come into play, especially the culture and nature of the Taino people. This gives the book a very different atmosphere, especially the much warmer climate which moves us away from the Ice Age-afflicted Europa of the previous novel.

The clash of cultures, with Expedition and the Taino Kingdom presented as in some respects more egalitarian and liberal in matters of the power of women and sexual freedom but still ruled at the whim of an unelected elite, gives the novel a source of tension and debate. However, these tensions are not explored in depth, as the book devotes a lot of time to Cat and Andevai's relationship. Given that the first novel established the situation - them marrying against their will, initially disliking each other but eventually falling in love - this second book does feel like it retreads a lot of the same ground. For a novel almost six hundred pages in paperback, it also feels like not a lot of ground is covered: the opening chapters are interesting and the grand finale is excellent, but the middle third or so of the novel indulges itself in elements which feel a little too soap-operaish.

In some respects this is a typical middle book-of-a-trilogy syndrome, with the pace faltering as the story switches from an introductory to a concluding mode. But Elliott is a fine enough writer - one of the best in modern fantasy - that she overcomes these issues and delivers a cracking finale in which all of the carefully-set-up elements come into play and sets the scene for the final novel in the series, Cold Steel.

Cold Fire (***½) is an interesting and original epic fantasy novel which does things rather differently from the norm for the genre and is all the stronger for it. However, the pacing feels sluggish at times before returning to form in an excellent ending.
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on 18 December 2011
After scrambling through the 1st book in this trilogy, I was very excited to start this story and rightly so. It has the right amount of suspense and action along with enchanting characters you can follow.

The story has many twists that keep the suspense alive and make it a good read. Again like the 1st book in the series the pace is good but there is much more action in this story which stops you from putting the book down (even more). I enjoyed the changes in scenery and the alternative world that Elliott reveals to the reader. The spirit world is described vividly so you can almost taste the magic within it!

Elliott's character selection is good in this book, especially the trolls and the bad characters that you can really hate. However the change seen in the male character, Andevai and his confessions throughout this story are slightly unbelievable. In contrast, the female lead, Cat, develops very well throughout the story and keeps the reader on their toes. The love story within this book is quite frustrating to endure as it is quite predictable yet annoyingly slow. It somewhat takes the focus away from the two rather big plotlines going on in the spirit world and the real world, which was rather disappointing.

All in all the story may have a weak point in some of its characters and their relationships but the brilliant and original storyline makes up for it!
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on 23 July 2013
The first novel has serious defects, but is still quite compelling. So is this one; except that the faults in characterisation destroy it. For me the book lost all interest after the point at which the heroine washes up on a beach and promptly whores herself to the first man who comes along. It's not believable; to the extent that it IS believable, it is disgusting; and it utterly destroys the romance storyline that has been building between the heroine and hero. After that, you just don't see the point.

Some elements are well imagined. The salt plague and salters are interesting and original. But an awful lot of it feels very empty. The plot still grips but ... frankly I lost interest in it. My copy now resides in the bin (since I don't want sex scenes in my romance, thanks).

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on 11 September 2012
I love this series, her best yet. The world building is really detailed, creating a rich place in which one can imagine standing in each scene. All the characters have strong characteristics that make them leap off the page and with whom it is very easy to engage emotionally with; they have their flaws and complications which endear, infuriate and make the reader route for or get cross with as the story unfolds. The action is must faster paced that other series she has written and keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. The love story has been stated as distracting but I found it added a strong human element and made the characters easier to relate to, after all - what is a world without love? I just can't wait until the final book, Cold Steel, comes out.
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on 11 April 2013
While I really liked Cold Magic, this book I adored. I have a feeling that mostly it happened because of its exotic location, which made Cold Fire so much more colourful.

You see, after cold and dreadful European winter we are transported onto a hot and humid equivalent of Caribbean islands. The flavors, the spicy, explosive mentality of the people, the slang, the beliefs - everything is so different from what we're used to, it's marvelous!

The atmosphere is incredible. I felt like I was soaking in the sun and exploring this new and confusing world along with Cat. Funnily enough, the weather helped the main characters to loosen up.

Add to it a mysterious zombie island, Fire Mages (here no one knows about Cold Mages and seem to think them a myth), the dangerous mood of coming uprising and political intrigues of general Camjiata, Bee's unknown role in Camjiata's plans, Cat and Vai's push and pull relationships... and what you get is a hornet's nest. Buzzing, frustrating, nerve-wracking and at times shocking, but above all, brilliant.

Really enjoyed it and highly recommend it.
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on 11 January 2016
I liked the first book for its interesting world-building and plot despite its occasional repetitiveness and clumsy exposition, but the first book's flaws are only worse in the second. I soldiered on until the creepy quasi-consensual make-outs with Some Guy, at which point I would have thrown the book away even if I had actually been enjoying it.
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on 6 November 2011
I felt this book drifted into a romantic drama and away from the fantasy origins evinced in the first book.
Cat, one of the primary heroines seemed to lose depth and strength of character from book 1, and also the ability to achieve anything. She become largely somewhat useless and this led me to be quite frustrated and wanting to finish the book.

There were some interesting threads of storyline that were touched on and these may add some further depth in book 3, however for me this did read almost too much like a book of teen angst in a fantasy arena - not something I personally am interested in.
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on 22 October 2011
Cat and her cousin Bee are back, and together with Rory Cat's half brother they are once again caught up between the Cold Mages, who want to capture them and Camjiata who wants them to use their powers to help him conquer Europe, willingly or not!.
Add to this exciting mix, dragons, trolls, a Salt plague and Cat's newly discovered father who is a threat to Cat and most especially to her cousin Bee, and you have the recipe for an adventure story that moves along at a breakneck pace.
And when you include Cat's changing relationship with her arrogant but handsome husband then the book has all the elements for a cracking read.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the author's ability to create a believable world with characters that are fully fleshed and totally memorable made it a pleasure to read. Her prose flows easily from one page the next making it very difficult to put the book down.
And I'm looking forward to the final part of the trilogy with great anticipation.
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I loved the first book in this trilogy and as a follow up this did not disappoint! I am not going to go into the plot as plenty of other people have done that already. What I would like to say is Wow - a fantastic read, I loved, loved, loved it. Anyone who is into this genre of fiction will enjoy this, fast paced plot, great characters (good and bad) wonderfully imagined settings and I just couldn't put it down. Does anyone know when the final book is due?
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on 12 September 2013
This is the second I've read in the series. I have to say it's really great. The way it is written draws you in and you feel all the things "cat" is going through. You go from anger to joy to frustration. There are very few books I've read that I've got so emotionally involved in. Can't wait to read the next book. Kate Elliott is a great fantasy writer.
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